Danny Pudi's "Community" character, Abed Nadir, may have fallen short in RedEye's fourth Best TV Character Tournament this week, but the Chicago native thought the championship matchup was perfectly cast.
After all, Abed's obsession with all things pop culture stands at the center of a series that constantly makes clever pop culture references, including to zombies. The reference was to "Shaun of the Dead" and not AMC's "The Waking Dead," but still.
"That kind of fits into the 'Community' world," he said of Abed's battle with "TWD" redneck Daryl Dixon. "We have fought zombies too … I think if it came down to it Abed would probably eat a squirrel, too, if he had to. That's my comparison with Daryl Dixon."
Daryl, played by Norman Reedus in the zombie drama, pulled out a win by the narrowest of margins after 87,821 votes were cast, more than 40,000 of those in the final day.
“Community” fans already were campaigning on “Save Community” sites and with flash mobs in some cities after NBC dropped the comedy from its midseason schedule. They rallied behind Abed, turning the tournament into another way to send a message to NBC.
Talking about 30 minutes before voting ended Wednesday, Pudi chuckled when he suggested another parallel between “Community” and “The Walking Dead:” “Survival. I think Greendale is all about survival, too, in some ways … We’re fighting for our show to survive.”
The “Community” cast and crew have filmed 16 of the 22 Season 3 episodes, Pudi said, and will be back to work after the holidays. Although NBC has yet to announce when the remaining episodes will air on the network, fans will be able to see them on Hulu Plus thanks to a deal with the show’s producing studio, Sony. Pudi said fan support like what he saw this week couldn’t come at a better time for everyone involved with the show.
“Thank you guys, for your fingers, for your clicks, for your late nights, for your fake goatees, for converting your friends, for telling your parents, for wearing sideburns, for yelling ‘pop pop.’ We hear it, we see it and we’re just really, really appreciative for it,” he said. “We have been since the beginning. It's our fans who give us that energy and prove to us that we’re doing something fun and different, so just a large 'pop pop' to our fans.”
Despite the show’s low ratings, Pudi knows from conversations at colleges and with other fans—including his mom, who still lives in Chicago—that the show resonates with many viewers. It’s just that many of them watch online or on DVR.
“According to my mom and college kids,” he said, laughing, “the show needs to exist and it’s an important show and, you know, I’ll take that. My mom is usually right…
“I don’t know; I think we’ll be OK. I’m hoping we get at least the senior year out of Greendale.”
Pudi, who is expecting twins with his wife, Bridgette, in a little over a week, had more to say about fans, the tournament and “Community.”
How are you?
I’m doing great. Happy Holidays, Wesolych Swiat, Hakuna Matata.
All that stuff?
[Laughs.] All of it, every single one of it.
Happy Holidays to you too.
So this is kind of exciting, right?
Have you been watching today?
I just looked at it. I know, I was like wow, it’s getting down to crunch time.
Do you know that when it started out there were like 58,000 votes when the day started. Now it's 80-some thousand.
And Joel McHale tweeted it, as did Yvette Nicole Brown and I think Dan Harman, and there was a huge surge of Abed votes.
Wow. All it took was three people more popular than me.
[Laughs.] Right. The difference between Abed and Daryl has swung from 12 percent to 7 percent to 2 percent to 5 percent and now, 1 percent.
Holy crap. Can we learn anything from this voting, like for future elections? People like to vote last minute. What else?
And vote a lot. Not just a Chicago thing.
[Laughs.] People like to vote a lot. Yeah. If zombies are involved in voting it probably goes up I think in some way.
What do you think of the whole thing?
It’s awesome, it’s really cool. It’s interesting … because this is the first time I think we’ve been matched up with a drama. So that’s kind of cool just to be even mentioned in the same category as a drama. That’s really great; that I enjoy.
I think Abed would be very thrilled that he was competing against a character from “The Walking Dead,” although I have a feeling he wouldn't do quite as well in a post-apocalyptic zombie world as Daryl Dixon would. But, you know, he could probably guide him in terms of like trajectory of his arrows, how many zombies in the vicinity. I think they’d be kind of a good team. It’d be kind of fun to watch Abed and Daryl.
I think Abed would have watched [the show] or read “The Walking Dead” comics. So I think he would have been able to tell, or be able to look for tropes and different holes in their world. But at the same time I don’t know how much time they have to think about that because we did fight zombies in our Halloween episode last year and Abed died, or got bitten, but he helped Troy become the first black man to make it to the end. And so he does have that knowledge, but at the same time, at the end of the day, if zombies are attacking you, that knowledge is not going to come in that handy.
But yeah, it’s cool. Like there are just so many different cool characters on TV. And just because the nature of how TV is structured, you’re always compared or mentioned along with other comedic characters and comedic shows. And that’s what’s kind of fun to just be like, “Let’s look at other characters from other shows.” I think you could also find that in some ways—drama, comedy—within all these characters are things that make them really interesting. So that’s cool.
People do really love their favorite characters, and really get behind them.
I think all of it is a testament to Dan Harmon and the writers for just writing a character that is just very strange and unique. And I think the same goes for Daryl and “The Walking Dead.”
I kind of wonder what people identify themselves with more sometimes. Do they see themselves more with comedic characters or dramatic characters? I kind of assume that more people just identify with dramatic characters just based on that in comedy usually you kind of take bigger leaps and go to in terms of like absurdist places. But I think that the nature of it, all these characters are pretty cool and very specific.
“Community,” I think more than many sitcoms, certainly puts focus on character over situation.
Yeah, yeah, I think this year especially. It’s been cool to even just be in these categories because just looking at the lineup of all these characters. I’m looking at like Liz Lemon and Charlie Kelly and Louie—just really, really interesting comedic characters.
I think this year the writers have made a push toward exploring the psyches of these characters, and I think just kind of peeling layers off. I think a lot more people are seeing themselves within these characters as they kind of go on to you could say maybe some darker places. Or more honest and truer places. The more and more you get to know these people, the more and more you get to really see aspects of yourself in them, and it’s fun.
I’ve actually gotten emails from some of the people who have organized some of the “Save Community” sites and the New York Flash Mob. (Find one Save "Community" site here, and the LA Flash Mob info here.)
Oh, you did? Oh, cool.
So it’s sort of become more than just the characters I think: “A vote for Abed is a vote to save ‘Community.’”
I like that. Anything we can do, you know? I love that our fans are taking initiative like that and it becomes more of a movement.
“The Walking Dead” and shows like that and shows like ours are—I don’t think people watch them traditionally, which [ratings-wise] is how shows are still assessed. When I watch “Community,” when I watch “The Walking Dead,” I DVR them, and sometimes I’ll watch a bunch in a row. And I think that’s kind of how people watch our show—online through Hulu or on DVR.
… So I think that some of these support groups and the fans really galvanizing on the Internet and at the chat boards and Tumblr and Reddit, these are the same people that are watching our show like that. The viewing habits have changed and I think TV is changing in that way. People are watching it online more or in different forms versus just your television live on Thursday night at 8/7 Central, you know?
… I think that’s tricky for a show like ours to survive when you don’t really know how people are consuming it.
You can’t get a true ratings thing.
Yeah, that’s the thing. I kind of feel like it’s just a big asterisk.
I’m going to run through the people who Abed defeated—Virginia from “Raising Hope” in Round 1.
Wow, it’s amazing. But I’ve really gotten into that show, I think it’s hilarious.
It is, it’s great. Liz Lemon, “30 Rock.”
Which is just incredible because I think she’s one of the most flawed, funny characters and writers around. So that’s kind of just fun.
Barney Stinson in “How I Met Your Mother.”
He’s amazing, Neil Patrick Harris. Again, these are all people I’m like speechless toward, because they’ve all done—they put in their time; they’ve put in their work and they consistently do it. I think “How I Met Your Mother” and “30 Rock” are both like what, seven seasons in and still doing it and still being creative and hilarious. I’m only three seasons in, so I think I have a lot to learn.
And Charlie Kelly, “It’s Always…”
Which is awesome, Charlie Day! Did he win last year or was he in second place last year?
Best runner-up ever.
OK. So hopefully, if I take second place I could learn some things from him. Again, that’s another one. Those three people—it’s pretty incredible just to be mentioned alongside these guys who I find hilarious on and off screen and are really, really talented.
So I think that we’re just hopeful that our show can keep going and plugging along. Just give us another season. We just want one more year.
But yeah, it’s cool. And those are all really shows too that I kind of enjoy, you know, especially all these funny—like watching those guys and their antics and watching Danny DeVito come out of a couch in a live birth scene is stuff that I find really, really entertaining.
Like I said, it’s weird … to be bouncing around from all these comedy shows that do very different things. But in some ways I think our show kind of fits in with all three of those shows and it’s pretty quick and it’s fast and has some really kind of strong, flawed characters. And like I said, a lot of that is owed to Dan Harmon and our writing crew for really not being afraid and kind of going for very strange and unique things like the “My Dinner With Andre” episode.
You guys haven’t heard anything yet, have you?
No, no. It’s very strange. Like even when we heard about the news like we were like the last people to know. I find out, again, through the Internet and the chat boards. And so I really found out on Twitter that we were off the mid-season schedule and so like I said, times have changed in that we’re just as uncertain and lacking knowledge of what’s the future as everybody else. My mom keeps telling me and she’s like, “You guys are so secretive; you guys are like Apple.” She’s like comparing us to a company that is waiting to unveil their product.
And I was like, “No, we really don’t know.” And we still don’t. We’re still shooting episodes, which is great. We’ve got I think 16 done, so there are six more to go for Season 2. But it’s an interesting position to be in, shooting episodes that you don’t know when and if they’re going to air. I think the Hulu thing is pretty cool.
I think they’re all going to air on Hulu, which is cool. I think you have to be a Hulu Plus member to do it. They’re going to have at least all of Season 3’s episodes there. But as far as NBC and when we’re going to be on the schedule or anything like that, that I don’t know.
That’s a good sign that you are still shooting eps. I mean, you could be like “Prime Suspect.”
Yeah, I know, that’s exactly it. I just feel like we’re just surviving and we’re hanging on and it’s just good to be mentioned in these conversations because it just means that we’re still around and I think we’re still in the game. And I think that we are a show that is buzzy in terms of people like to talk about it, people like to talk about previous episodes, people like to quote it. And I think that’s really helpful, especially when we’re in a position like this, when we are ratings-challenged and we need a little bit of support. It’s just a weird position to be in, shooting episodes that you don’t know when they’re going to air.
As a joke we’re constantly saying “Community’s” last episodes every scene we’re in because we don’t know where they’re going to end up yet. But I think we really believe in our show and I think, if anything, like the fan support and I just hope, you know, a lot of people that we work with, there is confidence and just faith in our show that we’re doing some fun, interesting things
Congrats, by the way.
Oh, thank you so much, man. … We’re having twins.
You’re having twins?
Well that’s cool.
I know. So Bridget’s about—it’s like, I mean the due date is 11 days away; so no, 13 days away, less than two weeks. So it’s pretty crazy.
How excited is your mom?
She’s super pumped. It’s the first-time grandma, so she’s excited.
She’s probably ready to fly out there?
Yes, yeah. … I think she’s been waiting to be a grandma for a while. It’s cool, all these things happened at sort of the right time. I don’t know, we have a good role model in Ken Jeong, who has twins. When I watch him I’m like, “OK, I should be able to handle this.” But I don’t know, we’ll see. I mean he and his wife are doctors; we’re not. So we’re going to be in for definitely some surprises. But I’m looking forward to it. It should be fun.